A federal court jury in Nashville today (Feb. 13) found UMG Recordings and Universal Music Group liable for copyright infringement, awarding $88,980 in
damages to music publishers Bridgeport Music and Southfield Music. The jury
found that Public Announcement's "D.O.G. In Me," released on a UMG label,
infringed the composition "Atomic Dog."

The publishers' attorney, Richard Busch, tells Billboard.biz that "Atomic Dog" is one of Bridgeport's most licensed songs. Public Announcement used the phrase, "Bow wow wow yippee yo yippee yea, bow wow yippee yo yippee yea," in its entirety five times in "D.O.G. In Me." The act also used a low vocal phrase, "dawg," throughout the latter song more than 40 times. Vocal "panting," used as a percussion element in "Atomic Dog," was also used intermittently throughout "D.O.G. In Me."

Last March, another jury in Nashville awarded Bridgeport and its sister label, Westbound Records, $4.2 million against Sean "Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment and Universal Records for using a six-second sample without
permission in Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready to Die." That verdict is on appeal.

Michigan-based Bridgeport and Westbound filed nearly 500 lawsuits since 2001
over unlicensed sampling of their music. Southfield is the ASCAP sister publisher to Bridgeport, which is registered with BMI. The suits were filed in Nashville where Busch, with King & Ballow, is based.

In a Westbound case filed against Master P's Los Angeles-based No Limit Films, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Tennessee in 2004 created what it called a "new rule" in copyright law. The court held that a mere two-second, unauthorized sample of a sound recording is enough to constitute copyright infringement. This despite the "de minimis" rule under copyright law that using a small amount (i.e., a minimal amount as determined by considering a number of factors, including length) of a copyrighted work is lawful.

The de minimis rule still generally applies to compositions (i.e., lyrics or arrangement of musical notes), and it may apply to sound recordings in other
jurisdictions. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California held in 2003 that a six-second sample of a composition (three notes) was too small to require a license even though it was looped more than 40 times in a rap recording.

The Sixth Circuit Court's decision helped Bridgeport and Westbound settle cases filed within that court's jurisdiction -- about 85%-90% of the claims, according to Busch.

But the jury rejected the de minimis rule in the Bad Boy case, and again rejected it in the Atomic Dog case.

"This case is not as financially rewarding as the Bad Boy/Universal case, but the principle is just as important," Bridgeport's attorney Richard Busch tells Billboard.biz.

"Although small, we still do not believe that the verdict is supported by
either the law or the facts of the case," says a UMG spokesman.